Nevada City Market Manager Vanessa Wich moves on
Special to The Union
Vanessa Wich is going to miss ringing the cowbell every Saturday morning.
After three years as market manager for the Nevada City Farmers Market, Wich is moving on.
“It has been so rewarding to be a part of a beloved community event,” said Wich. “I will miss the close connections I have to so many small businesses. It is so great to see so many people doing what they love.”
With her background in event planning, farming and community building, Wich brought new ideas and an energetic spirit to her post as the lead organizer of the market, now in its eighth season.
Before returning home to Penn Valley in 2010 to farm with her husband, Matt Wich, Vanessa worked as an event planner for a Portland, Oregon nonprofit called Our United Villages.
She and Matt Wich (now co-owner of food business, Musa Musa) farmed for two and a half years at their operation, Willow Springs Farm.
Heading up the farmers market was a natural fit.
“I was excited for the opportunity to work directly in increasing market share and earning potential for the local farmers, since economic stability and growth can be a challenge for small farms,” Wich said.
Wich is proud of the tasting booth that was launched as a six-week pilot program during the 2013 season.
This year, the booth, now a mainstay, was a popular stop for shoppers who tried a variety of recipes and culinary bites made from seasonal food prepared by two local chefs.
“It is a great way for patrons of the market to try something new and experience an additional level of culinary expertise. It is great for the farms to be able to showcase their products,” said Wich.
Since it began, organizers of Nevada City Farmers Market have been dedicated to supporting local and regional farms, placing a strong emphasis on organic certification and practices.
“We want our farmers market to represent the values of the community and all of the abundance our local farms can offer,” said Wich.
Also a business incubator, successful local businesses like Fable Coffee and Huck’s Hollow Goods both got their start as vendors at the market.
Getting up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays, rain or shine, is just one of the challenges of the job.
During her time at the market, Wich learned the delicate balance between rule enforcement and customer relations.
She juggled many moving parts such as: state, county and city regulations and market operating principles.
While at the job, Wich learned the value of people skills. She worked with a board of directors, musicians, nonprofit groups and more than 18 volunteers and 40 vendors.
“It takes an incredible amount of patience to deal with so many different personalities and opinions. You have to keep most people happy and still enforce the rules. It’s quite the juggling act,” said Wich.
Above all, she had to remember her primary role — promoting local farms.
“It is key to be focused on the benefit the market provides to the farmers and to make decisions with their interests in mind. We can’t have a farmers market without farmers,” she said.
Wich observed a community eager to support local farmers. Attendance at Nevada City Farmers Market grew each year and most vendors reported higher sales year after year.
Community fundraising has grown and business sponsorship and involvement has increased.
This year, free activities at Kid’s Day and Harvest Day attracted new shoppers.
In five years, Wich hopes the market will continue to be a community anchor for Nevada City and that farmers will grow even more food to meet consumer demand.
She would like to see more partnerships formed with other market organizations and likes the idea of an indoor winter market.
Wich will continue to work for Mountain People’s Wine Distributing in Nevada City where she has worked for the past three years.
She also plans to expand her bookkeeping business.
She says she is going to miss catching up and having beers with the market’s loyal crew of volunteers.
“At the end of the day, there are very few other ways I would like to spend a Saturday,” she said. “The market will continue to be a part of my routine. I look forward to shopping and hope to stay in touch with all the customers and vendors.”
The application deadline for the market manager position is 5 p.m., Friday.
Vanessa Wich has these words of wisdom for her successor.
“Smile. Breathe. It’s only 24 Saturdays. In reality, it goes by way too fast every season. From the first summer squash to the last sweet potato, it is always a blast.”
To learn more about the market manager position at Nevada City Farmers Market, visit http://www.ncfarmersmarket.org/
Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-3067.
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